If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you may remember Heidi Brenegan’s blog about her dog, Sally, called “My Pet Was in Pain. Is Yours?” Heidi skipped one annual dental cleaning and as a result, Sally had to have four teeth extracted. Today, we have another cautionary tale that illuminates the need for our pets to have routine dental care, and this story could have had an even more dire outcome than the loss of four teeth.
Meet Pepper! Pepper belongs to Shari, who works in Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota’s financial office. Shari says, “Pepper has had annual dental cleanings since she was about two years old. In 2020, I ended up putting it off about six months due to COVID, but towards the end of the year, I decided I had better get it scheduled. I am so very thankful that I did!”
So in November, Pepper came in for her routine annual dental cleaning, which includes a complete oral exam. At that examination, one of our board-certified veterinary dentists, Erin Vicari, VMD, DAVDC, found a tumor towards the back of Pepper’s tongue. At AERC, Shari has a reputation for being really positive, and this situation was no different! “I was taken aback [by the news] but hopeful it wasn’t going to be anything of concern,” Shari says. Then the biopsy results came back, and Pepper was diagnosed with a mast cell tumor.
Mast cell tumors (MCTs) are a blood cell cancer and the most common skin tumors in dogs. Shari continues, “When I found out the news that it was a Mast Cell Tumor, I was shocked, cried a lot and just snuggled her as much as she would let me. She was a gift from my Dad who passed away from pancreatic cancer a year and a half ago, so the word ‘cancer’ was hard to hear.”
As with many cancers, early detection is essential to a positive outcome. It was fortunate that Shari didn’t choose to skip Pepper’s annual dental care, because she likely wouldn’t have seen the tumor on her own until it had become very large. Caught relatively early, Dr. Vicari was able to remove the entire tumor with a much smaller portion of her tongue than would have been possible at a later time.
Shari’s diligence to her dog’s annual dental schedule may have saved more than just her dog’s tongue. If Pepper hadn’t come in for another year, or even another six months, her story may have ended very differently. Instead, Shari says, “Pepper has been doing great! She loves the snow, walks, playing with her toys, guarding the neighborhood, and just being her sassy self.”
We’re so glad Shari and Pepper will be a team for years to come. If your pet hasn’t had a dental cleaning and oral examination with x-rays in a year or longer, please contact your family vet today!